Branle du Hault Barrois

(Hault Barrois Branle)

(16th century)


Introduction

The Branle du Hault Barrois is an easy circle dance described in Arbeau's Orchésographie (1589).


The Formation

An open or closed circle of dancers (Arbeau mentions both) with hands joined.

Everyone dances the same steps together.


The Dance

Although it can be danced as a dance, the Branle du Hault Barrois is really more of a styling that can be applied to other branles, like the Double Branle, Simple Branle, and Burgundian Branle.

There are two different interpretations that have been offered for dancing the Hault Barrois style, depending on whether you read Arbeau's written description, or instead rely solely upon the tablature.

In his written description, Arbeau says that you are to spring off of both feet and land in the position of the feet required for the next step of the branle you're dancing. For example, a double to the left would be: spring, landing on left with feet apart (1), spring, landing on right with feet closer together (2), spring, landing on left with feet apart (3), and spring, landing with feet closed together (4).

If you rely on the tablature, you might come to a different conclusion, namely, that you take the step, and then you do a slight hop in that position, then take the next step. In this case, a double to the left would be: step side left (1), hop (and), close right toward left (2), hop (and), step side left (3), hop (and), close right to left without weight (4), and hop (and).

Which one is more likely? While we can't be completely sure, if we rely on the tablature, Arbeau's written description doesn't make any sense at all. If, instead, we rely on his written description, we might be able to interpret the tablature as an imperfect way of representing his written description (the primary issue is that it's missing the preliminary spring into the first step). Given this asymmetry of imperfection, the written description is probably more likely to be correct, but again, we can't be completely sure, since neither interpretation resolves all of the issues beyond a doubt.

In any case, Arbeau notes that the Hault Barrois style is danced by servants, and sometimes by young men and women at masquerades (disguised as peasants and shepherds), or when they want to enjoy themselves privately. His student Capriol adds that this branle seems more rousing than the standard branles, and seems appropriate for dancing in winter as a way to warm up.


The Music

Given that it's a style that can be applied to other branles, music for those branles can be used, but if you want a specific tune for the Branle du Hault Barrois, Susan de Guardiola provides this one, recorded by the Waytes of Carolingia:


Sources


© 2020 Nick Enge


For more, see our two books on dancing:
Waltzing: A Manual for Dancing and Living (2013) by Richard Powers and Nick Enge,
and Cross-Step Waltz: A Dancer's Guide (2019) by Richard Powers and Nick & Melissa Enge.


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